The True Cost of a Cup of Soup: Shark Populations on the Brink

Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year, many for an Asian delicacy, shark fin soup.

"[Sharks'] physical beauty and strength...reflect the health of the oceans."

-President Johnson Toribiong, Palau

All over the world, shark finning—the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and discarding the body at sea—is destroying shark populations. Of the 1,045 shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 17 percent are classified as threatened with extinction and 13 percent are "Near-Threatened." Alarmingly, for 47 percent of shark species, scientists lack enough data to properly assess their population status. It is simply unknown.

Declines in some shark populations of as much as 80 percent have been reported globally. This includes populations such as porbeagle, hammerhead and dusky sharks in the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. and Canadian coasts. With only 10 percent of the big fish (sharks and tunas) left in the world's oceans, there is no time to lose if we are to protect the remaining sharks.

Despite the statistics, conservationists and some countries have provided some good news. In 2010, Honduras and Palau—countries that have barred commercial fishing in their waters—urged the rest of the world to protect shark populations. In the words of President Johnson Toribiong of the Republic of Palau, "[Sharks'] physical beauty and strength...reflect the health of the oceans," and for this reason, global shark conservation must be an integral part of all global conservation efforts.

The Pew Environment Group is working to stop the loss of sharks and to preserve these majestic animals for the future. Find out about our successes and goals and learn how you can help by visiting our Global Shark Conservation campaign.